Where I Went Wrong, Second Annual Edition

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Happy anniversary to me: I’ve now been writing this here weekly column for exactly two years. Over the last year I have opined, prescribed, and predicted many things. And now, like last year, as part of my one-man crusade for greater opinion-journalism accountability, I’m going to take a moment to go back and look at what I got right … and where I went horribly, hilariously wrong.

(cracks knuckles)

OK, then: without further ado, and leaving out posts too recent to be judged or those that didn’t contain forward-looking statements, let’s see what I said over the last 52 weeks, and why…

Eyes In The Skies

I appear to be mildly obsessed with drones and ubiquitous surveillance technology, so every few months I write about their potential repercussions, the apparent inevitability of a transparent society, and the dire need to ensure that we’re talking about one-way, rather than two-way, transparency. See, for instance:

Was I excessively paranoid? This here Danger Room post can be neatly summarized as a two-word answer: hell, no. The future is here, and more than a little terrifying.

Dubious Cheerleading

  • About a year ago, I wrote: I Believe In Google Plus (even though I hardly use it myself.) At best, the jury’s still out on this one. On the one hand, Google announced some impressive numbers at their I/O conference, and Hangouts seem to be a hit; on the other, it’s clearly not yet even the Pepsi to Facebook’s Coke, and they haven’t rolled out near as many features as I would have expected. We’ll see.
  • I also wrote — shock! horror! — Sing Now The Praises Of Klout’s Klumsy Kludges, in which I predicted that something like Klout, albeit not Klout itself, would one day be huge. People do seem to have largely gotten over their visceral hatred of everything that Klout stands for, and the site was receiving more than 1 billion API calls/month as of May, but a service that will be to Klout what Facebook was to MySpace hasn’t really erupted yet. Give it time.

Long(ish)-Term Thinking

  • In The Decline And Fall Of The Appian Empires, I wrote: “the HTML5 is on the wall for native apps. They’ll continue to reign through 2012, and maybe even 2013; but make no mistake, their days are numbered.” Then Facebook changed their mobile apps from HTML5 to native. Er. However, at TC Disrupt, Mark Zuckerberg said: “It’s not that HTML5 is bad. I’m actually, on long-term, really excited about it.” So let’s check back in 2014.
  • Then I predicted In Five Years, Most Africans Will Have Smartphones. A recent report indicates that smartphone penetration has already hit 41%(!) in Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, which seems awfully high, but if true bodes very well indeed for my prediction (indeed, makes it seem tame and slow). We’ll see.
  • In Whither, Hollywood, Wither? I predicted “As Hollywood hikes ticket prices, and fewer and fewer people attend theaters every year, eventually they’ll hit a point at which the cultural cachet and social buzz of going to see a movie seems less and less worthwhile to more and more people.” We’re not there yet, and as a hardcore movie buff, I actually hope I’m wrong on this one…but I don’t think I am.
  • In Heads Up! This Was Google’s Apple Moment, I declared “Google Glass isn’t just a new product, it’s a whole new product category, and it has every chance of being every bit as revolutionary as Apple’s Big Three.” (Words eerily echoed by the NYT’s David Pogue some months later, I note.) We’ll see, but I’m feeling pretty good about this one … except that this was also a panopticon post.

Fish In A Barrel

Egg On My Face

  • Do I sound all self-congratulatory? Let me clear that up for you. In Bashing Facebook For All The Wrong Reasons, I wrote that Wall Street’s focus on Facebook’s most recent earnings report was ridiculous, because “Facebook’s long-term upside has nothing to do with its expected earnings over the next year or two. It’s believed by many to be extraordinarily valuable not because of its advertising income but because it has a real chance of becoming a company unlike any that has ever existed before, with the possible exception of pre-breakup AT&T.” So far so right. But then I suggested that they had a long-term income-generating gold mine in … Facebook Credits. Which they then discontinued all of two weeks later. Sigh. Thanks, Zuck.
  • Then, in What Happens When Pollsters Are No Better Than Psychics?, I made a very specific prediction: “Nate Silver will find himself writing about how and why the election results varied so much from the poll numbers leading up to it.” And I was absolutely, completely, 100% wrong. To be clear, as I said on Twitter:

edited to add: Aha! Yesterday, after this post went up, Nate Silver wrote: “It turned out that most polling firms underestimated Mr. Obama’s performance, so those that had what had seemed to be Democratic-leaning results were often closest to the final outcome.” It seems this particular item does not belong in the Egg On My Face category after all.

I Dunno, I Dunno
I lump these together because, in retrospect, I think that probably one of these is true, but not both; in fact, they might well be mutually exclusive.

  • In Double Hubble Bubble Trouble, I worried that we were in a bubble: “Software is eating the world. The Internet is changing everything, for everyone. But these sea changes don’t happen anywhere near as fast as true believers think.” Now I’m beginning to think that I was wrong. Of course, classically, a bubble really begins to inflate when even former skeptics capitulate and give in to irrational exuberance. So does thinking that I was wrong mean I might have been right?
  • What worried me even more, though, was What If Technology Is Destroying Jobs Faster Than It Creates Them? And I’m even more concerned about that today. If so, it’s good for me, and probably for you. But for the world, at least as we know it? I’m not so sure.

On the whole, I give myself a B- (edited to add: upgraded to a solid B, see above) for the year’s prognosticatory accuracy. It might have gotten up to B+, though, if not for that meddling Nate Silver and Mark Zuckerberg. I leave you with the image of me shaking a fist in their general direction.